2:00PM Water Cooler 12/22/2020

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

The sound on this a bit low, but it really reminds me of the prairie.


At reader request, I’ve added this daily chart from 91-DIVOC. The data is the Johns Hopkins CSSE data. Here is the site.

Case count by United States region:

Resuming the upward climb, though at a lesser slope. Looks like the Midwest did it, from the regional data, with now a little help from the Northeast. I feel I’m engaging in a macabre form of tape-watching, because I don’t think the peak is coming in the next days, or even weeks. Is the virus gathering itself for another leap?

California’s neighbors and the West Coast:

California, Arizona, and Nevada all track together until seven to ten days ago. Cascadia follows its own path.

Test positivity by region:

A wild swing in the West. Again.

Nowhere near 3%, anywhere.

Hospitalization by region:

Distinct flattening, thanks to the Midwest and the West. Hospitalization is also discretionary; they may also be reducing their admissions rate — relative to cases we cannot see in this data! — to preserve future capacity; or because hospitals have figured out how to send people home.

Case fatality rate by region:

Resuming the upward climb. I don’t much care for that gradual increase in the fatality rate and wonder what’s behind it.


“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51

“They had one weapon left and both knew it: treachery.” –Frank Herbert, Dune

“They had learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.” –Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

Democrats en Deshabille

Liberals Can’t Memory Hole The Trump Era Like They Did With Bush

Election Legitimacy

UPDATE “How Long Can This Continue?” [David Frum, The Atlantic]. • As long as Trump can raise money off it and the media needs the clicks, I would think. So, years?

UPDATE “The ‘Red Slime’ Lawsuit That Could Sink Right-Wing Media” [New York Times]. “[SmartMatic, now a major global player with over 300 employees, pulled out of the United States in 2007 after a controversy over its founders’ Venezuelan roots, and its only involvement this November was with a contract to help Los Angeles County run its election.” • [lambert sobs quietly]. The Times is either ignorant or playing stupid. Please see “Los Angeles County to Intoduce VSAP E-Voting System: NOT Hand-Marked, NOT Paper, NOT Hand-Counted in Public” from 2019. Smartmatic has the VSAP contract with Los Angeles Country, which plans to open source its software so that the rest of the country can use it. And the VSAP system uses ballot-marking devices that are not auditable. Trump, through his slopply and poorly lawyered election fraud lawsuits, couldn’t be doing more to legitimize digital voting if he tried [sobs, puts head in hands].

Transition to Biden

UPDATE “Biden names Bruce Reed as deputy chief of staff” [Axios]. “Joe Biden’s transition team today named six new White House hires, including Bruce Reed, the president-elect’s long-time confidant, to serve as deputy chief of staff.” • Reed, executive director of the Bowles-Simpson Commission and President of the Betsy Devos- and charter-loving Broad Foundation? That Reed? Austerity, here we come. On the other hand, this could actually be good: “Gautam Raghavan, a former chief of staff to Rep. Pramila Jayapal, will be the deputy director of the Office of Presidential Personnel, a powerful position in helping the administration fill its appointed posts.”d

UPDATE “Big Tech’s stealth push to influence the Biden administration” [Reuters]. “The Biden transition team has already stacked its agency review teams with more tech executives than tech critics. It has also added to its staff several officials from Big Tech companies, which emerged as top donors to the campaign. Now, executives and employees at tech companies such as Alphabet Inc-owned Google, Amazon.com Inc, Facebook Inc, Microsoft Corp are pushing to place candidates in senior roles at government agencies, according to four sources with knowledge of the matter. The agencies many of these executives are aiming for include the U.S. Commerce Department, Office of the United States Trade Representative, the Office of Information & Regulatory Affairs – a key agency under the White House Office of Management & Budget which drafts policies impacting the tech industry, the State Department and the Department of Defense, according to the sources. Many company executives, who in some cases helped raise money for the Biden campaign or have ties to those on the president-elect’s transition team, still have a huge commercial interest in pushing candidates with industry ties at the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission – both of which are investigating whether Big Tech abused its market power. But the spotlight on those agencies from progressive interest groups and members of Congress is likely to make it much harder for Silicon Valley to succeed, the sources said. To be sure, there is no formal process via which such names and recommendations are being floated by company executives to the transition team.” • To be sure!

Transition from Trump

UPDATE “Trump trashes McConnell to fellow Republicans” [Axios]. “President Trump lashed out at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday night for acknowledging Joe Biden won the election, sending a slide to Republican lawmakers taking credit for saving McConnell’s career with a tweet and robocall…. While both the message and its delivery targeted McConnell, they also carried a subtle warning to other Republicans who may follow suit as the president grasps at the last straws of his election-fraud claim. Trump’s remaining power over the GOP is not his waning authority as president, but the perception of his lingering ability to make or break politicians in their re-election campaigns.: • “Lingering”? Who says that?

UPDATE “Liberals Can’t Memory Hole The Trump Era Like They Did With Bush” [Oliver Willis]. • Yes, they can.


UPDATE “Immigrant Neighborhoods Shifted Red as the Country Chose Blue” [New York Times]. “Across the United States, many areas with large populations of Latinos and residents of Asian descent, including ones with the highest numbers of immigrants, had something in common this election: a surge in turnout and a shift to the right, often a sizable one. The pattern was evident in big cities like Chicago and New York, in California and Florida, and along the Texas border with Mexico, according to a New York Times analysis of voting in 28,000 precincts in more than 20 cities…. Ruy Teixeira, a senior fellow at the liberal Center for American Progress, said he worried before the election that Democrats’ focus on racial justice issues came at the expense of outreach about easing the lives of hard-pressed workers. ‘In general, it suggests that Democrats’ theory of the case — that their electoral problems were all about race rather than class — was incorrect,’ he said.” • That’s rich, because nobody worked harder than Teixeira to convert the Democrat party its base in the working class to a bundle of identity politics verticals — the so-called “coalition of the ascendant” that I [lambert preens] pilloried in back in February 2016.

UPDATE The diversity racket (and I use racket in the fullest sense of the word):

I believe I’ve been saying for some time [lambert preens again] that identity politics goons think the world is an HR department and should be run that way.

“Bernie Sanders says Democrats pushed working class supporters to Trump” [Independent]. “In a record year for turnout, the incumbent won some 74 million votes compared with just under 63 million in 2016…. Mr Trump increased his support in deprived communities, where unemployment and poverty are high. And according to Mr Sanders, many of those voters supported the president because they did not like what they saw from the Democrats. ‘This is a reflection of the Democratic Party,’ said the left-wing lawmaker in a Friday interview with SiriusXM radio host Dean Obeidallah. ‘I think if you talk to many of those … working class people who voted for Trump, they’ll say, ‘Look, of course we know he’s a liar. We know he’s full of shit. But at least he does this; he does that.’ Something the Democrats don’t do.'” • If Sanders had “gone militant” and explicitly put himself and his movement at the head of the strike wave in Summer 2020… Before Black Lives Matter emerged…. “Of all the words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: It might have been.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Why It’s Good To Push Politicians To Do The Right Thing (Even When They Probably Won’t)” [Caitlin Johnstone]. “There’s a misconception which spans almost the entire US political spectrum, and that is the idea that some part of the system serves the people. Progressives believe they can use the electoral process to obtain economic justice for Americans. Trumpers believe the judicial system is going to overturn Biden’s win any minute now. Liberals believed Mueller was going to drag the entire Trump camp out of the White House in chains. And that’s just not the case. There is no part of the US political system which is anything other than innately oppositional to economic justice. There is no part of the US judicial system which would ever act to reverse widespread establishment electoral fraud. There was no part of the Special Counsel which was separate from the same unifying power structure that Trump serves to remove him from office over corruption or anything else. Ever since 2016 people have been predicting massive upheavals which radically shift power from one mainstream faction to the other, but it never happens; the imperial machine keeps chugging along with all its parts working in well-oiled harmony. And that’s all the US governmental system exists for: ensuring the uninterrupted functioning of the imperial machine.” • James Madison did his work well. More: “But that doesn’t mean there’s no value in pushing for officials to do the right thing. You don’t push politicians to do the right thing because you think they will, you do it to show everyone else that they won’t…. Human behavior only changes when there’s an expansion of consciousness, whether you’re talking about individuals or a collective of any size.” • Hmm. Mining the same territory–

UPDATE “The Left’s Most Naïve Cynics Have Turned on AOC” [Eric Levitz, New York Magazine]. The original headline, from the URL, is more fair: “jimmy-dore-aoc-medicare-for-all-strategy.” Levitz writes: “Last month, Dore argued that AOC and her progressive allies can best advance the cause of universal health care by denying Nancy Pelosi the support she needs to retain the Speakership — until she agrees to hold a House vote on Medicare for All. Dore considers this course of action so self-evidently optimal that the only possible explanation for why Ocasio-Cortez declined to pursue it is that the congresswoman is a fraud who cares more about her career than the needs of her constituents. ‘She is standing between you and health care,’ Dore told his viewers last week. Responding to Ocasio-Cortez’s argument that it takes years of organizing to lay the groundwork for seemingly spontaneous progressive breakthroughs, Dore exclaimed, ‘I figured this out in two weeks, AOC! You liar. You coward. You gaslighter.’ The comedian’s proposition (if not his condemnation of AOC) was taken up by a gaggle of other left-wing YouTube commentators, among them former MSNBC anchor Krystal Ball; host of Secular Talk, Kyle Kulinski; and ex–Bernie Sanders campaign spokesperson Briahna Joy Gray. Ocasio-Cortez’s decision to respond to their call on Twitter further amplified its reach. Dore’s proposal was not entirely absurd.” •

Lambert here: I don’t really have a dog in this fight. AOC is an original, still the most interesting politician of the day. Dore is a comedian and media figure. If we’re looking for a leadership figure in the intersection of the set of all militants, the set of all those with strategic acumen, the set of all those committed to policy that centers the working class, and the set of all those with operational capability, neither Dore not AOC fall into that intersection. (Neither does Sanders. It also helps to be lucky, as Napoleon said of his generals. AOC is that.)

I also agree with Levitz that the Medicare for All movement is in need of a little self-reflection. Medicare, due to a neoliberal infestation, is not the panacea it is made out to be, as Yves shows here. Rather than consistently pointing to polling, advocates would do better to ask themselves why they haven’t closed the sale.

Finally, Dore has a YouTube audience of 653,000, big albeit not Limbaugh scale. If we apply the old adage from the blogosphere that of a readership, 1% comment, and of that 1%, another 1% go on to found their own blogs, Dore’s, er, militants would number 653000 * 0.01 * 0.01 = ~65. To be fair, that seems low. A good test of strength would be for Dore to organize Tea Party-style pro-#MedicareForAll activism at town halls in the upcoming Congressional recess. Let’s see what can be done on the ground.

“The Black Caucus Unified with the Progressive Caucus? Watch Out, Baby”: Nina Turner, Progressive Disciple, Could Make Waves in Biden’s Congress” [Vanity Fair]. “When, within a week of suspending his presidential campaign, Bernie Sanders endorsed Joe Biden, the calculation was clear: progressives would get on board to take out Donald Trump, but they’d want something in return. Now, with Trump scheduled to vacate the White House in just over a month, the bill is coming due. As the so-called Squad swells with the additions of Congress members-elect Cori Bush, Jamaal Bowman, and Mondaire Jones, progressive lawmakers in the House are preparing to meet the Biden administration head-on. And in a somewhat ironic twist of fate, Biden—by tapping Congresswoman Marcia Fudge to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development—may have paved the way for one of his most formidable potential antagonists. After weeks of rumors, prominent progressive and top Sanders ally Nina Turner announced her campaign for Ohio’s 11th Congressional district, Fudge’s old seat, pending Fudge’s confirmation. And Turner—who once likened voting for Biden over Trump to eating half ‘a bowl of shit’ instead of the ‘whole thing’—has no patience for half measures as the COVID-19 crisis ravages the country, making societal inequities impossible to ignore. ‘The pandemic leaves no doubt that the system is rigged in this country…a system that does not benefit the poor, the working poor, and the barely-middle class,’ she told me in an interview on Wednesday.” • I like Turner. She’s militant, and militant is my favorite new word. But she was also in charge of the Sanders operation in South Carolina in 2020, and that did not go well. Militancy needs to be combined with operational capability even at the individual level. Does Turner have that?

Militia Watch

UPDATE “‘Moorish sovereigns’ try to seize $4.5 million Woodway home” [Herald.net] (Everett, Washington) “Two members of a sovereign citizen group broke into a vacant $4.5 million home in Woodway, claiming they had seized the property under Moorish law, according to police. Six times since October, residents of Edmonds or Woodway have reported self-proclaimed Moorish sovereigns showing up to expensive homes uninvited and claiming the legal right to seize the property… Around 9:05 p.m. Friday, a neighbor called police saying someone broke into a gated home in the 21700 block of Chinook Road in Woodway, according to reports filed Monday in Everett District Court. The neighbor knew the owners, and knew nobody should be inside. It’s an affluent, exclusive neighborhood. The house — with five bedrooms, five bathrooms, an indoor basketball court, indoor pool and four-car garage — went up for sale a few weeks ago…. Officers recognized Maddox Bey from the other recent run-ins with Moorish sovereigns. Those incidents got some national media buzz, when a man wearing a tall red fez — later identified as Maddox Bey — knocked on doors carrying documents written in a strange form of legalese, announcing to at least one resident, “I am here to let you know that I am the legal owner of the property and today is the day!” In those incidents, the unwanted guests departed without making any direct threats of violence…. A Snohomish County deputy prosecutor noted Maddox Bey had been accused of violating anti-harassment orders on March 26 and March 27, as well as May 29. Maddox Bey listed an address as ‘general delivery,’ which is common for people with no fixed home.” • Here is a thread JJ McNabb, who is the go-to account on sovereign citizens, militias and so forth:

This whole thread is wild stuff, worth reading in full, and clicking through. I think there are also some lessons for the left here in terms of militancy (and perhaps even organizational tactics, though that would be like trying to reverse engineer reality out of a fun-house mirror). I haven’t seen the left seize many million-dollar mansions recently (though respect due to empty home seizures by homeless activists)

UPDATE “How Ammon Bundy Helped Foment an Anti-Masker Rebellion in Idaho” [The New Yorker]. “Minutes before Davis arrived at her desk on the chamber floor, several of her colleagues heard glass shattering and a huge ruckus from above. A crowd of about two hundred unmasked men, women, and children, carrying American flags and homemade signs, had climbed the capitol rotunda’s grand marble staircase and crowded into a fourth-floor hallway leading to the House chamber’s viewing gallery, most of which had been reserved for lawmakers with health concerns. A line of state troopers in black masks stood between the crowd and a set of glass-panelled doors. “This is our house!” the protesters shouted. A chant began: “Let us in! Let us in!”

UPDATE “Far-right protesters storm Oregon Capitol calling for end of COVID-19 restrictions” [The Hill]. “Right-wing protesters in Oregon swarmed the state capitol early Monday calling for an end to the state’s COVID-19 restrictions and the resignation of the state’s Democratic governor. Video of the incident obtained by Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) showed police in riot gear clashing with protesters, who were described by the news service as being armed with bear mace and some firearms…. OPB reporters identified the protesters as members of Patriot Prayer, a local right-wing organization that regularly stages armed demonstrations in the Portland area. Photos of the conclusion of the demonstration indicated that at least two members of the group were arrested after refusing to leave the scene.”

Stats Watch

At reader request, I added some business stats back in. Please give Econintersect click-throughs; they’re a good, old-school blog that covers more than stats. If anybody knows of other aggregators, please contact me at the email address below.

Manufacturing: “December 2020 Richmond Fed Manufacturing Survey Improved” [Econintersect]. “Of the four regional Federal Reserve manufacturing surveys released to date, all are in expansion… The important Richmond Fed subcategories (new orders and unfilled orders) are well into expansion and improved this month. We consider this survey better than last month.”

Consumer Confidence: “December 2020 Conference Board Consumer Confidence Again Declined” [Econintersect]. “Consumer confidence had been steady for the previous two years – but the coronavirus killed the upswing. Consumer confidence is as low as seen in 2014.”

GDP: “Third Estimate 3Q2020 GDP Improves Marginally to 33.4%. Corporate Profits Improve” [Econintersect]. “The third estimate of third-quarter 2020 Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) improved from the second estimate’s positive 33.1 % to 33.4 %… The coronavirus recovery is the reason for the improvement from the previous quarter – and pushed GDP quarter-over-quarter growth to record levels. I am not a fan of quarter-over-quarter exaggerated method of measuring GDP – but the recovery from the pandemic is not over as the year-over-year GDP growth remains in contraction.”

* * *

Shipping: “Persistently tight containers market expected into 2021 as contract talks evolve” [Hellenic Shipping News]. “The existing challenges in the container market are likely to persist into the first quarter of the next year as firm demand meets supply constraints and logistical bottlenecks, market sources said. ‘All shipping liners have verified that demand is ramping up and is unlikely to slow down before Chinese New Year,’ said Peter Sundara, Vice President Global Freight Management, Global Ocean Product, LF Logistics.”

Retail: “Amazon shuts New Jersey facility till Dec. 26 on virus spike among workers” [Reuters]. “Amazon.com Inc said on Sunday it had closed one of its warehouses in New Jersey out of caution till Dec. 26, after seeing an increase in asymptomatic positive cases amongst workers…. Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, said it isn’t anticipating any impacts to operations or deliveries due to this shutdown. It did not specify the number of workers who contracted the disease at its PNE5 facility, which is a sorting center.:

Tech: “Exclusive: Apple targets car production by 2024 and eyes ‘next level’ battery technology – sources” [Reuters]. “Apple’s goal of building a personal vehicle for the mass market contrasts with rivals such as Alphabet Inc’s Waymo, which has built robo-taxis to carry passengers for a driverless ride-hailing service. Central to Apple’s strategy is a new battery design that could ‘radically’ reduce the cost of batteries and increase the vehicle’s range, according to a third person who has seen Apple’s battery design…. Making a vehicle represents a supply chain challenge even for Apple, a company with deep pockets that makes hundreds of millions of electronics products each year with parts from around the world, but has never made a car. It took Elon Musk’s Tesla 17 years before it finally turned a sustained profit making cars. ‘If there is one company on the planet that has the resources to do that, it’s probably Apple. But at the same time, it’s not a cellphone,’ said a person who worked on Project Titan. It remains unclear who would assemble an Apple-branded car, but sources have said they expect the company to rely on a manufacturing partner to build vehicles.”

Shipping: “IMO Secretary-General denounces “no crew change” clauses” [Hellenic Shipping News]. •  In other words, nothing has been done?

Mr. Market: “Hope and how it functions in financial markets: Morning Brief” [Yahoo News]. “‘Hope’ is a relatively unscientific concept that sometimes draws mockery in the investment community. But just because a concept doesn’t fit the mold of strict fundamental analysis doesn’t mean that it doesn’t play a big role in how financial markets function. Indeed, there’s an entire field of study within finance that explores these types of less-than-rational concepts.” • “Hope” is the thing with feathers – That perches in the soul – And sings the tune without the words – And never stops – at all -” — Emily Dickinson, ““Hope” is the thing with feathers – (314)


* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 60 Greed (previous close: 63 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 69 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 22 at 1:38pm. Sorry I missed the transition to mere greed!

The Biosphere

“Wildfire smoke, a potential infectious agent” [Science]. “Wildland fire is a source for bioaerosols that differ in composition and concentration from those found under background conditions, and most of these microbes in smoke are viable (1, 2). Bioaerosols, composed of fungal and bacterial cells and their metabolic by-products, are known to affect human health (3). At the same time, respiratory allergic and inflammatory diseases, including asthma and bronchitis, are exacerbated by exposure to wildfire smoke (4). However, the risk of infection to the upper and lower respiratory tract after exposure to wildfire smoke is frequently overlooked (5). Smoke-related immunologic deficits and inflammatory responses may exacerbate the effects of inhalation of airborne microbial particulates and toxicants in smoke.” • Hmm. Speculating freely, I wonder if the California wildfires are a partial explanation for California’s Covid oddities, and those neighboring states downwind from it?

“Permit granted for Wyoming coal mine, 1st in decades” [Wyoming Tribune Eagle]. “An independent council has upheld a decision by Wyoming environmental regulators to grant a mining permit to a coal technology company, making it the state’s first new coal mine to open in decades. The Wyoming Environmental Quality Council affirmed the permit extension on Wednesday, allowing Ramaco Carbon to dig for coal at a former mine site near Sheridan, The Casper Star-Tribune reported.” • Jawbs. The permitting process held off the mine for a decade, so at least opponents cost the company some money. Still.

“Will Rising Temperatures Make Superweeds Even Stronger?” [Wired (Re Silc)]. “mounting evidence suggests that temperatures of around 90 degrees Fahrenheit or above can make some herbicide-resistant weeds even more resistant, and cause other weeds to be less sensitive to certain chemicals. Some farmers say they know high temperatures can mess with some herbicides, so they try to avoid spraying in the heat of the day. “A good rule of thumb is if it’s 85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, just don’t spray,” says Curt Gottschalk, a farm manager in Hays, Kansas.” • Whoops. So I guess the answer is to go back into the lab and come up with some new formulations…..

“Evidence of “modified gravity” in 150 galaxies strengthens dark matter alternative” [New Atlas]. “[O]bservations continue to support the idea of dark matter. But one major piece of the puzzle is still missing – finding the stuff itself. Plenty of experiments have tried to detect particles of the elusive dark matter, or even create them, but so far none have been successful. Perhaps that’s because it’s not really there after all, and instead it might be that our models of gravity and physics need some tweaking. This class of hypotheses is known as modified gravity, and now astronomers claim to have found evidence supporting one particular model, known as Modified Newtonian dynamics (MOND). First proposed in 1982 by physicist Mordehai Milgrom, MOND suggests that at low accelerations, gravity’s effects are stronger than Newton’s laws describe. A side effect of this is that the motions of objects would depend not just on their own mass, but all other masses in their neighborhood. This phenomenon is known as the external field effect (EFE). And now, researchers on the new study say they’ve observed the EFE in action in 153 different galaxies.” • Neat! Gravity would be relational!

Will Rising Temperatures Make Superweeds Even Stronger? Wired

Health Care

“Anti-vaxxers Think This Is Their Moment” [The Atlantic]. “The misleading claims Americans will soon hear about the newly released COVID-19 vaccines are nearly identical to claims made about smallpox immunizations 120 years ago: The ingredients are toxic and unnatural; the vaccines are insufficiently tested; the scientists who produce them are quacks and profiteers; the cell cultures involved in some shots are an affront to the religious; the authorities working to protect public health are guilty of tyrannical overreach. In the British Medical Journal in that period, a Dr. Francis T. Bond frets about what to do about his era’s anti-vaxxers and their arguments, which have since become well-trod canards because they are effective in frightening people. Today’s anti-vaccine activists, however, enjoy a speed, scale, and reach far greater than those of Dr. Bond’s day. Bottom-up networked activism is driving the spread of anti-vaccine COVID-19 propaganda. Americans are about to see a deluge of tweets, posts, and snarky memes that will attempt to erode trust in the vaccine rollouts.” • All this is true. Nevertheless, “what we’ve got here is failure to communicate” (a.k.a. “respect mah authoritah”) hasn’t worked, and shaming and fingerwagging haven’t worked either. The author recommends a “whole-of-society approach.”

“COVID-19 testing: One size does not fit all” [Science]. “Similar to home pregnancy tests, screening tests should be easy to obtain and administer, fast, and cheap. Like diagnostic tests, these tests must produce very low false-positive rates. If a screening test does not achieve high-enough specificity (e.g., >99.9%), screening programs can be paired with secondary confirmatory testing. Unlike diagnostic tests, however, the sensitivity of screening tests should not be determined based on their ability to diagnose patients but rather by their ability to accurately identify people who are most at risk of transmitting SARS-CoV-2. Such individuals tend to have higher viral loads, which makes the virus easier to detect. A focus on identifying infectious people means that frequency and abundance of tests should be prioritized above achieving high analytical sensitivity. Indeed, loss in sensitivity of individual tests, within reason, can be compensated for by frequency of testing and wider dissemination of tests. In addition, public health messaging should ensure appropriate expectations of screening, particularly around sensitivity and specificity so that false negatives and false positives do not erode public trust. Tests for public health screening require rapid, decentralized solutions that can be scaled for frequent screening of large numbers of asymptomatic individuals.” • Lot of detail. Well worth a read for testing mavens.

“What the Chaos in Hospitals Is Doing to Doctors” [The Atlantic]. “Article after article outlined a series of awful questions: If and when New York hospitals ran out of ventilators, should the machines be allotted on a first-come, first-served basis? Based on who was sickest? Based on who was most likely to survive? Based on who, if they survived, had the most years left to live? Based on some randomized lottery system? As it happens, the job of answering these questions is still frequently left to committees. But today, “the lawyer, the housewife, the banker, the minister” have been supplemented by bioethicists.” • I don’t think that’s a good thing at all. I mean, Zeke Emanuel is a bio-ethicist,

Our Famously Free Press

“How Civil Society Can Combat Misinformation and Hate Speech Without Making It Worse” [The Media Manipulation Casebook]. Here is a handy diagram:

A cynic might say that looks like a self-licking ice cream cone. A Buddhist might say it looks like the karmic wheel. A realist might say “‘Twas ever thus!” My problem with such goo goo efforts is that the notion of “civil society” goes unexamined. What if civil society itself is based on frameworks of deception and illusion, like RussiaGate? Or mainstream macro?


It seems that Kelton’s book is doing well:

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“Living With Karens A white woman calls the police on her Black neighbors. Six months later, they still share a property line.” [New York Magazine]. Final paragraph: “Sometimes, well, often, when he’s standing in his house, looking out over the fence, he sees Schulz in her yard, or even just the empty yard, and it hits him. Just for an instant. Maybe it was silly or naïve or too optimistic, but there was an expectation that in Montclair he could be aware of the reality of being Black in America without having to confront it or acknowledge it in his daily life. But now, ‘we do actively acknowledge it,’ he said. ‘It’s just a reminder of that reality.'” • From Montclair, NJ.

Class Warfare

“Uber and Lyft’s Gig Work Law Could Expand Beyond California” [Wired]. “Now New York, a less-than-traditional gig market in many ways, is set to be among the first states where a post-Proposition 22 battle might play out. A constellation of gig companies and allies on Monday introduced the New York Coalition for Independent Work, which describes its mission as “protecting self-employed, app-based contractors’ independence and flexibility while also working to provide them with needed benefits.” But the state’s relatively labor-friendly climate means that gig companies will have to tread carefully—and that a pitched battle is likely ahead…. In statements, spokespeople for Uber, Instacart, and DoorDash said the companies would work with legislators to protect flexible work schedules for their gig workers, something they have said would be impossible if they were forced to treat the workers as employees. DoorDash vice president of communications and policy Liz Jarvis-Shean said the company wants to work with state and federal lawmakers ‘to help create a new portable, proportional, and flexible framework that embraces today’s modern workforce.’ Uber spokesperson Matthew Wing said the company supports state laws to require ‘all gig economy companies—including ours—to provide new benefits and protections to all independent workers.'”

“Hidden Foster Care: All of the Responsibility, None of the Resources” [The Appeal]. “Removing children from their parents and placing them with relatives is a common occurrence in Texas, and around the country, as child welfare authorities intervene in situations like Sophie’s. But unlike the traditional foster care system, no court case is initiated, and no lawyers are present to advise either parents or caregivers of their rights. Legal advocates say these arrangements lead to confusion around custody rights, are ripe for coercion of the parent, and leave caregivers without any support in caring for children. The phenomenon has been termed ‘shadow foster care’ or ‘hidden foster care’ by legal researchers, who estimate that these informal arrangements are made at a rate on par with the traditional foster care system. In fiscal year 2014 in Texas, there were just over 30,000 children placed in the foster care system, with CPS cases in the courts overseen by judges; that year, the state made 34,000 informal placements of children with relatives as a result of a CPS investigation, which had no court cases attached. That number seems to be declining, according to recent data acquired from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. This year, DFPS reported about 12,000 children currently in such placements; more than 1,000 of these arrangements have been closed each year for the last five years with the child’s relatives still caring for them, without a custody order in place.”

“The Battle for Waterloo” [Pro Publica]. “As the [he Peoples Community Health Clinic] staff tended to the sick, a chilling pattern emerged: 99% of the patients either worked at the local Tyson Foods meatpacking plant or lived with someone who did. Some patients said they’d come from a town two hours away where an outbreak had shut down another Tyson plant… Meanwhile, a lawsuit would later allege, top Tyson managers in Waterloo were directing interpreters to downplay the threat of infection at the plant, while privately making winner-take-all bets on how many workers would test positive. (Seven managers were fired last week).” • A must-read, I can’t adequately excerpt. To be read in conjunction with–

“How the History of Waterloo, Iowa, Explains How Meatpacking Plants Became Hotbeds of COVID-19” [Pro Publica]. • An excellent timeline, 1891 – 2020.

News of the Wired

“Aphorisms on programming language design” [Michael Arntzenius]. “3. The measure of a language is not what is possible in it, but what it makes easy.” • Human languages are not programming languages. That said, what English does not make easy is pointing to and classifying sets with fuzzy edges or overlaps. Sets like “Black,” “women,” “working class.” We have awkward bolt-ons like “some” or “all,” or “most” but nothing in core, as it were. I wonder if there is some obscure language that does better?

“Bos Taurus” [The Last Word on Nothing]. “One of my favorite bull stories, The Story of Ferdinand, is about a young Spanish bull who does not enjoy fighting, but prefers to sit under a cork tree and smell the flowers. The simple power of Ferdinand’s story, I think, is that it unravels the old conflation of male strength and violence, revealing such macho projections for what they really are: bullshit. (Disliking what he deemed its pacifist message, Hitler ordered the book to be burned.)”

“Historic Auction of Iconic East Village Institutional Items” [Gem Spa]. “To illustrate the vital importance of its illustrious history, Gem Spa is featured on the back cover of the first album by the New York Dolls. Poets Allen Ginsberg and Ted Berrigan both mentioned the stand in their works, where Robert Mapplethorpe bought Patti Smith her first egg cream, Madonna shot Desperately Seeking Susan there in 1984, Lou Reed loved to get egg creams there, Jean-Michel Basquiat paid homage to Gem Spa in a 1982 painting. In 1966, The Village Voice called it the ‘official oasis of the East Village;. Abbie Hoffman gathered people for his 1967 protest at the New York Stock Exchange at Gem Spa. it was known as a ‘hippie hangout’. In the late 60s, it was midway between two other iconic venues, the Fillmore East and the Electric Circus, now gone forever.”

This sign, apparently, features an egg cream. Whatever that is…

* * *

Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (RM):

RM writes: “While on a hike in the hills in eastern Montana I came across this outcrop of scoria covered in lichen. The scoria is made by coal layers that catch on fire and burn underground for many years. The heat bakes the overlaying clay and makes it like pottery.” Wow!

Readers, I could use more photos from readers who have not contributed before! Thank you!

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. nycTerrierist

    an egg cream is a native NYC beverage:
    (U-Bet) chocolate syrup and milk with a spritz of seltzer

    at least this is how I remember it from childhood

      1. t

        Lost in the mists of history…. or part of the name because an egg cream is rich and has a somewhat viscous mouthfeel. You could imagine there’s some egg in there and pay more?

        Often served with a salty pretzel (where I worked) for “salt and sweet.”

      2. edmondo

        An egg cream has neither egg nor cream among its ingredients. It’s kinda like how democratic the Democratic Party is.

        1. Yves Smith

          Knowing that an egg cream has no eggs is a secret sign of being a New Yorker.

          The knowing it does not contain cream isn’t as obvious a tell given the state of American dairy products.

          1. vlade

            On the other hand, the traditional egg cognac contains eggs, but cognac only sometimes (any strong alcohol will do).

  2. Terry Flynn

    Not really related to links but big political story breaking in UK. Load of new people named as peers (members of the House of Lords). Some curious inclusions. One is our recently defeated Labour MP (Gedling is a lynchpin in the famed “red wall.)

    He was acting as if he was the natural choice to refight the seat in 4 years. But I know who is Sir Keir Starmer’s buddy who is lined up….. Let’s just say he is perfect in terms of identity politics credentials and being on brand regarding all those things current “New Labour” (UK) and “Establishment Democrat” (USA) like.

    I shall not be voting Labour again next time round. The lesser evil is still evil. We got rid of the Liberal Party in just 20 years. Time to give Labour their marching orders.

    1. Massinissa

      Starmer may as well be Tony Blair 2.0. Labor winning in the next election would be the British equivalent of electing Biden: may as well let the Tories own this complete disaster. There’s alot of valid reasons to not like Corbyn, but those thinking the neoliberal Starmer will be a preferable replacement to him need to be sold an Alaskan bridge.

      On a separate note, I don’t particularly know enough about the Lib Dems to really say much about them, but I am rather surprised they lasted as many decades as they did. Who the hell thought fusing together a Social Democrat party with a Liberal/Neo-Whig party was a good idea? That they eked out 25 years being a party that essentially makes no ideological sense is almost impressive.

  3. Judith

    I haven’t had a vanilla egg cream in a long time; now I have a hankering for one. It is kind of like a really creamy ice cream soda without the ice cream (if that makes sense).

  4. Lemmy Caution

    Re: Daily Covid charts. It would be interesting to see the number of daily vaccinations charted alongside the new cases or new hospitalizations data.

  5. Svejk

    What is an egg cream?! I pity the uninitiated wretch who never got to stand on a crowded sidewalk on St. Mark’s Place and drink this wisdom-granting elixir, see the base elements of urban life transformed to gold, if only for a moment, and hand the suspicious-looking glass back to the surly attendant. I weep for the fallen.

      1. nycTerrierist

        that’s my old ‘hood
        sad how they’ve ripped out its soul
        just when you think everything is gone —
        they go and find something else to take away!

        1. ambrit

          Oh, that is so an Humanities Degree joke.
          “Eggs-terminate! Eggs-terminate!”
          I bow down to our new Mechanical Overlords!
          We are going to have to add a new category to Krafft-Ebing: Electronica.

      1. Sue



        I am he as you are he as you are me
        And we are all together
        See how they run like pigs from a gun
        See how they fly
        I’m crying
        Sitting on a corn flake
        Waiting for the van to come
        Corporation T-shirt, stupid bloody Tuesday
        Man you’ve been a naughty boy
        You let your face grow long

        I am the egg man
        They are the egg men
        I am the walrus
        Goo goo g’joob
        Mister City policeman sitting
        Pretty little policemen in a row
        See how they fly like Lucy in the sky, see how they run
        I’m crying, I’m crying
        I’m crying, I’m crying
        Yellow matter custard
        Dripping from a dead dog’s eye
        Crabalocker fishwife, pornographic priestess
        Boy, you’ve been a naughty girl, you let your knickers down

        I am the egg man
        They are the egg men
        I am the walrus
        Goo goo g’joob

        Sitting in an English garden
        Waiting for the sun
        If the sun don’t come you get a tan
        From standing in the English rain
        I am the egg man (now good sir)
        They are the egg men (a poor man, made tame to fortune’s blows)
        I am the walrus
        Goo goo g’joob, goo goo goo g’joob (good pity)

        Expert, texpert choking smokers
        Don’t you think the joker laughs at you (ho ho ho, hee hee hee, hah hah hah)
        See how they smile like pigs in a sty, see how they snide
        I’m crying
        Semolina Pilchard
        Climbing up the Eiffel tower
        Elementary penguin singing Hare Krishna
        Man, you should have seen them kicking Edgar Allen Poe

        I am the egg man
        They are the egg men
        I am the walrus
        Goo goo g’joob, goo goo goo g’joob
        Goo goo g’joob, goo goo goo g’joob, goo
        Joob, joob, jooba
        Jooba, jooba, jooba
        Joob, jooba
        Joob, jooba

        The Beatles

  6. Mikel

    RE: Civil Society / Misinformation
    “What if civil society itself is based on frameworks of deception and illusion, like RussiaGate? Or mainstream macro?”

    There is a built-in assumption about who gets to define “civil society.” And an assumption that it is no longer up for debate.
    Can think of a time when slave holders were allowed to define a “civil society.”

    1. pjay

      Exactly. Who defines ‘civil society’ – and who determines what is a legitimate ‘civil society organization’ (“CSO” — suspiciously similar to “NGO”)? And who gets to define “misinformation”? The folks at Harvard Kennedy Shorenstein Center? There was a time when I might have trusted them, perhaps even used their materials in class. That seems like another lifetime now.

      As usual, on the surface this article sounds reasonable, and its strategies make sense. Who among us supports “misinformation”? But for whom is it written? Reading with my jaundiced eye, I notice that, while examples of “disinformation” are fuzzy, those that are given are from the right-wing. I also notice that the focus is on “bottom-up” disinfo from reddit, facebook groups, etc. I’d be interested to hear their take on *top-down* disinformation, corporate or state-sponsored propaganda — the kind often filtered through elite institutional sources like, say, Harvard’s Kennedy School. And following Lambert, I’d love to see their analysis of Russiagate. Perhaps they might surprise me. But I strongly doubt it.

  7. Bill

    “Poets Allen Ginsberg and Ted Berrigan both mentioned the stand in their works…”

    Are you really promoting the Allen Ginsberg scum?

    “please consider something else Ginsberg said, this time during a 1997 interview with The Harvard Gay & Lesbian Review: “Everybody likes little kids. … Naked kids have been a staple of delight for centuries, for both parents and onlookers. So to label pedophilia as criminal is ridiculous.”

    Then we have Deliberate Prose: Selected Essays 1952-1995, a book in which his publisher (HarperCollins) claims Ginsberg “gave voice to the moral conscience of the nation.” A book in which the poet’s “moral conscience” led him to announce: “Prepubescent boys and girls don’t have to be protected from big hairy you and me, they’ll get used to our lovemaking in two days provided the controlling adults will stop making those hysterical noises that make everything sexy sound like rape.”


    Allen Ginsberg, poet and father of the Beat Generation, was an affiliated member of NAMBLA. Claiming to have joined the organization “in defense of free speech”,[39] Ginsberg said: “Attacks on NAMBLA stink of politics, witchhunting for profit, humorlessness, vanity, anger and ignorance … I’m a member of NAMBLA because I love boys too—everybody does, who has a little humanity”.[40] He appeared in Chicken Hawk: Men Who Love Boys, produced and directed by Adi Sideman, a documentary in which members of NAMBLA were interviewed and presented defenses of the organization.[41]

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I’m not going to ellipsis the presence of a historical figure. That’s not the same as promotion. See the difference? Lou Reed was not a particularly nice person either.

  8. farmboy

    Weeds and plants in general begin closing their stomata around 90F. Those open stomata are necessary for the plant to take in the applied contact herbicide or fertilizer. Most adjuvants aim to make the target material adhere to the plant so that absorption can take place when the plant will take it in. Also adjuvants or “sticker” in ag parlance, makes spray material break up in solution, like soap does in water. Above 80F most spray solutions volatilize and then are subject to drift, causing off target affects, like vineyard damage. Plants will harden off due to heat and any other stress making herbicides less effective. Compounds like fulvic acid can aid in getting absorption to happen because of their molecular size. Ag is at the end of the line for chemistry solutions, the future is biology, including pseudomonas flourescens. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/06/science/researcher-finds-way-to-fight-cheatgrass-a-western-scourge.html

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Ag is at the end of the line for chemistry solutions, the future is biology, including pseudomonas flourescens

      Truly, the NC commentariat is the best commentariat.

  9. jsn

    “Wildfire smoke, potential infectious agent”.

    Covid in Southwest doesn’t map over the smoke plume, except for Southern California. Hard to see potential causal relationship.

      1. polecat

        Shouldn’t there be an accent after that ‘d’ .. ???

        Lambert, have you recently inured yourself into becoming one with the Manor born. A Viscount, perhaps … ? A .. Baron?? …. dare I say, A Marquis???

        Better watch out! – might be Your abode next, to be uh, how shall we say .. ‘reacquired’?
        And wipe that mole off your cheek!!

        1. ambrit

          I think Mr. Strether is quite comfortable with his role as informal ambassador. Ambassador to what, you may ask. Ah, well, it is a long story.

  10. drumlin woodchuckles

    Why did Sanders not do any number of things to lead a ready-to-be-led political combat strike-force?

    I think he is ideologically opposed to the concept of “vanguard leader” and ” vanguard leadership” and “vanguard movement”. He is a mass-movement believer to a fault. And he found the idea of himself taking an immediate political-combat vanguard strike-force leadership role to be *gasp* . . . Stalinist. Or at least Leninist.

    Which he is against ANYone doing or being. Least of all himself.

    1. jsn

      Ideologically opposed? Or temperamentally unequipped?

      I think Bernie simply doesn’t have the killer instinct or ego of a revolutionary leader. As a result, he tried to idealize revolution to achieve it without the necessary destruction, without trashing those who in his long career had been on occasion allies.

      There is a necessary arrogance to the exercise of power that selects for the immoral and presents the scrupulous with the monstrosity of their ambitions should they succeed: there will be incalculable damage and a revolutionary leader has to be willing to impose it, to risk the lives of unintended others.

      To be a well socialized and decent person makes the indecency of what is necessary difficult to bear. What Stalin did, or for that matter what Lincoln did created vast human wreckage, it takes vanity (the successful call principles) greater than all those lives to do it. It’s a brutal irony that occasionally it’s done well and makes our world better, for some, for a while.

      1. verifyfirst

        He’s definitely not revolutionary in the sense of tearing down the existing system, or even the existing Dem party. Bernie wanted the ocean without the deadly roar of its waters, to paraphrase Frederick Douglass.

        I should have figured this out when he thought is was ok to buy a $700,000 summer cottage for his third home a year or two ago. Nonetheless, it was lovely to hear somebody say the things he said when it seemed he had a chance at power–now, sadly, the same rhetoric from him just sounds hollow and empty……

  11. Harold

    The “frozen” or semi-frozen milk is a local variant. Traditional egg creams date back to before the era of electric refrigeration when ice was delivered in big blocks and kept in an ice box. The syrup has to be U-bet, though. (We have some in our fridge right now. We use bottled selzer).

    It is supremely refreshing on a hot day. A beverage of childlike innocence and simplicity, sort of glorified water.


  12. Lambert Strether Post author

    I added a few orts and scraps. Also, I saw a request from a reader for commentary re: Levitz in New York Magazine on Dore v. AOC, so I added a small essay on that.

    And do check on the material on “Moorish sovereigns.” It’s really extraordinary.

  13. DJG

    The Battle for Waterloo. It’s a horror story, but it is worth reading, so as to bear witness even from faraway. There are also some interesting people, not who you might suspect: Formidable labor organizer Anna Mae Weems and Sheriff Thompson–and here in the Upper Midwest, sheriffs often are non-entities, so his efforts are notable.

    And there’s this:
    “Workplace safety rules had been targeted by Reagan-era deregulation. Unionism was in a downward spiral. And in meatpacking, corporate power had grown with industry consolidation, forcing the once-mighty packinghouse workers union to merge with less fiery labor groups that also represented other industries, like grocery clerks. Gone were the days of Rath, when a union steward could simply drop a handkerchief and signal a work stoppage.”

    The degradation of the union and of the workers has led to the degradation of the whole city. Which was the plan. The feeble apologies and tergiversations of the union officials near the end of the article aren’t even worth one’s pity.

    And it didn’t have to be this way.

    I truly doubt that the incoming administration with its blabbering about healing and about its competence is prepared to deal with the overhaul necessary to take down monstrous operations like Tyson.

    1. VietnamVet

      This is what happens when money and power flow upwards. Increasing profits come today in the USA from postponing or ignoring the real costs; in particular, from labor and environmental protection. The current meat shortage is an example. Union busting, cutting wages and benefits meant that minority immigrants fleeing poverty, persecution and war work at Meat Packing Plants. These workers are powerless. At Tyson Foods a thousand got sick and six died.

      Since the government is being dismantled to make more money, across the board, it has ceased to function. Workplace safety, PPE stockpiling, daily coronavirus testing, contact tracing and isolation, even cybersecurity failed (not to mention the two-decade war in Afghanistan).

      Since Democrats represent at best the upper 10% of the population, they can still deny the smell of the rot. But in a pandemic everyone below them is either essential or a gig precariat if working or unemployed on the brink. Even so, Congress Creatures delayed pandemic stimulus for nine months but rushed to get vaccinated. When the collapse comes, it will be too late to do anything about it.

  14. Louis Fyne

    non-scientific anecdote: i swear that I am seeing much, many more older seniors on the roads and in the stores in my neck of the woods versus this spring and summer

    Older as in I would never leave the house (unless it’s the park) if I was that old—even masked.

    Covid fatigue? Cabin fever is worse than covid fears?

    could explain the cases in CA NV AZ, etc. versus the midwest….temperate weather makes people want to visit other people’s homes

    1. Arizona Slim

      Seeing that right here in my neighborhood, Louis. The houses around me are having all sorts of visitors today. And poor ole Slim hasn’t hosted a party since November 2019.

    2. jsn

      My 89 year old mother and her 94 year old himbo keep going to Olive Garden.

      My epicureanism is no doubt showing, but if this doesn’t kill them it may kill me: all you can eat salad bar right now? Really? Creamy foamite dressing anyone?

      Definitely covid fatigue, and at their age “you call this living?” (ht anonymous)

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        I went to the Olive Garden in our town during the first wave of covid restrictions. Limits on numbers of people in restaurants, everybody masked, etc.

        I don’t know about the Olive Garden where you are, but our Olive Garden had changed its methods some. “Salad bar” now meant they prepare a plate of salad and bring you dressing with it all under proper precautions I think. If you want another, they make another under guidelines and precautions and bring it to you. Not a bar where people can come up and serve themselves salad.

  15. George Phillies

    “self-licking ice cream cone”

    As a new exercise in futility, consider the non-reusable reusable shopping bag, a devisement like the ice cream cone without a top. One of my local grocery stores switched over from light plastic bags to heavy things, good for 150 uses. So, having had them used to bag groceries, on the next shopping trip I came back with the bags and put them on the continuous belt at the cash register, so they could be re-used. The person running the registered apologized, and explained that the store did not let clerks re-use bags. However, municipal policy on re-usable bags was now being supported, and the new bags only use four times as much plastic.

    With respect to your karmic wheel, note again the entry ‘responses by industry, activists, politicians and journalists’. For a considerable fraction of the population, the working assumption is that industry, activists, politicians and journalists are political propagandists and pathological liars, so that if industry, activists, politicians and journalists warn people that something is false, that’s heard as evidence that something is true.

    1. ChiGal in Carolina

      At my local coop you can still use the bags but since the pandemic if you bring yours from home you have to bag them, for obvious reasons. I am happy to spare the familiar faces at the store any additional exposure.

    2. marieann

      If the refusal to let you reuse your bag was done this year it’s probably because of Covid. Many stores stopped allowing the bags in case you brought the virus into the stores.That nonsense did stop abou 5 months into the pandemic.

      If it was before that that then the answer is “I am using these bags” The downside is you may have to bag your own groceries.

    3. drumlin woodchuckles

      IF! . . . we become a post-covid society, THEN! . . . we can go back to re-using our own re-usable bags in stores.

  16. teri

    “AOC is an original, still the most interesting politician of the day.”

    I have seen someone else recently whom I would consider one of the most interesting politicians of the day. He showed up on several national news shows lately what with the election stuff going on. (He has done quite a lot of interviews actually, but most of them were not on national television. You can find them on youtube. Really good one where Rolling Stone interviewed him.)

    I would offer up the name of John Fetterman, the Lt. Gov. of Pennsylvania. Really fascinating guy, quick-witted and articulate, very progressive, born poor, went from mayor of a small town in Pa. to Lt Gov in one fell swoop. He looks like a biker thug, but then he starts to talk…..

    A small detail that I enjoyed is that he lives with his wife and kids in an old used-car dealership that he banged into shape to use as a living space, in the same town he was mayor of; he declined the use of the Lt Gov’s mansion and got Gov. Tom Wolf to use the mansion for an activities space for underprivileged kids.

    Anyway, I think he is someone to watch.


  17. ChiGal in Carolina

    Very cool plantidote—the rock, not the lichen. As a pantheist, I have long been of the opinion that pics of such things as cloud formations, ripples in water, and patterns in rock might be added as elementidotes to the NC rotation.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > elementidotes

      Interesting concept. Christopher Alexander thinks rocks are conscious. Just not very conscious. Since my spirituality, such as it is, is animist-adjacent, this makes sense to me.

      1. furies

        Thank you Lambert–*this* (and things like this) are one of the reasons for my devotion to NC.

        The birds, the river the rocks the trees…

      2. Wukchumni

        People wax poetic about faraway mountain peaks, but when you get close enough its always the same in that there’s a scree field full of boulders of every size and shape imaginable which sometimes has to be crossed to get to the holy grail up top.

        10,000 years of fire (summer heat) & ice (20-30 feet of snow in the winter) calved these off from on high and when crossing such a field, you certainly get the idea they are alive as most are set in place and not going anywhere, but not all of them.

  18. km

    One of your “Moorish Sovereigns” links is gorfed.

    FWIW, there are more non-white, non-rural and more non-US-based Sovereign Citizens and the like than you may think.

    1. shtove

      This Canadian judgment from 2012 gives a survey of the types of Freemen and Sovereigns who pitch up in the courts there: https://canliiconnects.org/en/cases/2012abqb571

      Never occurred to me that their ex-camera antics might serve as a model for political activists, but then if you’re sick of being treated like a commodity maybe there’s common ground.

    2. The Rev Kev

      I know that they are trying it on but to claim Moorish law is not going to do it. As each territory or State came into the union, they agreed to adopt the laws of that Union, including the territory of the Louisiana territory land purchase. If this were not so, the States that came from that land purchase such as Louisiana and Missouri would still be using the Napoleonic Code. They might do better getting themselves adopted into the North American Indian tribes for that area and then claiming that land as tribal land. Then they could sort out their claim with the US Cavalry.

      1. RMO

        A relative of my wife tried something like this, just more conservative Christian in nature. She ended up having to appear in court summoned by the Crown in his trial for tax evasion – when she was a student she worked part time for him a little in the home business he was running (making something that sounds like the Scientologists E-Meter applied to dental health). He likely would have gone to jail if he hadn’t died from cancer before the trial was complete. His widow didn’t end up with much by the time Revenue Canada was finished taking the taxes he hadn’t paid in the past decades out of the estate.

      2. ambrit

        Large bits of the law of Louisiana are still based on the Code Napoleon. We had a friend, who I believe has since passed, who had a monumental fight in the Louisiana courts over his ex-wife trying to extort funds from him for the support of her lover’s child. Under the Code Napoleon, and, at that time, the law of Louisiana, any child born in the year after a divorce decree was legally assumed to be the progeny of the ex-husband. (The parties to a divorce had to wait a year after a divorce was granted before the decree was legally enforceable.)
        That story taught me that the Law was not a cleanly and logically constructed system, but an outcome of the accretion of a congeries of confusions of statutes.

      3. Lambert Strether Post author

        > I know that they are trying it on but to claim Moorish law is not going to do it.

        I’m interested in the construction of an entirely and obviously alternative reality that they have induced people to buy into, to imagine word salad is real salad.

        I think the left could learn from this, although both forms of salad might be a little more grounded, shall we say,

  19. zagonostra

    >The Left’s Most Naïve Cynics Have Turned on AOC – [Eric Levitz, New York Magazine].

    I love Levitz’s understatement that “Dore’s proposal was not entirely absurd” Levitiz and then you have this from Manu Raju.

    Manu Raju
    Dec 20
    Pelosi wouldn’t answer my question about why the $900 billion deal is more acceptable to her than the $1.8 trillion offer Mnuchin made to her this fall.

    And, people still think that challenging Pelosi and forcing the vote on Single Payer is a bad idea, like Cenk at TYT – who was exposed/destroyed by JD on a live stream last night.

    In a weird way JD did what Bernie couldn’t. Cenk was a “good friend” to Jimmy, but the latter called him out any way – unlike Bernie did to Biden.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Can you imagine if Bernie had called out Biden over the past few months? Had demanded actual changes to Biden’s policies instead of being fobbed of with a task force? Right now the Democrats may be coming into power but the Progressives are joining the Republicans in the wilderness, even though they helped push the Democrats over the line. Maybe they will offer Bernie an Ambassadorship next year to get him out of Washington. Does Upper Volta have a US Embassy? And when the mid-terms come rocking around in two years time, what can the Democrats possibly offer the Progressives to help them win again? They will probably lose the House to the Republicans and I am not sure if they even care.

    2. Glen

      Pelosi wouldn’t answer my question about why the $900 billion deal is more acceptable to her than the $1.8 trillion offer Mnuchin made to her this fall.

      Pelosi’s answer: Because I could not get a $0 deal like my billionaire donors wanted. But in my defense, I tried.

  20. zagonostra

    >Lambert here: I don’t really have a dog in this fight.

    With all due respect and admiration for what you do here, you do have a dog in this fight. I have pretty good healthcare insurance and am lucky to work via VPN. But what happens to the least happens to me. And I see this failure to rally behind forcethevote.org as truly a missed opportunity. It’s not going anywhere, sadly there is not even 30K that signed up last I checked.

    1. Akash

      Keep fighting the good fight zagonostra! I know I for one have been keenly following your impassioned and informed comments. It is mightily disconcerting that the forcethevote.org petition rally isn’t garnering the support that it merits — c’est la vie, in an era of peak neo-liberalism, I suppose.

      1. HotFlash

        Seconded. I don’t have a dog at all (cat person myself, and I live in Canada), but I do have rellies in the US of A and I believe they should know what their congresscritter will get public with. This ‘don’t have the votes to win’ schtick drives me crazy. Bernie got done what he did, and it was a lot, by persistence.

        So, demand an up-or-down an M4A. Lose. Repeat until you win.

        As the owner of a car dealership I once worked for said, after he had propositioned me in front of the whole office, on my third day of work, “If you don’t ask, you’ll never get the order.”

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > you do have a dog in this fight

      I do not have a dog in this fight in terms of a person to back; note the set of criteria I laid out — not exhaustive, but life it short — that nobody meets.

      I do have a dog in this fight in the sense that I am a (New! Improved! Purged of Neoliberal Infestations!) #MedicareForAll backer. But even that… The effort has gone off the rails, derailed by Biden and the DNC ffs. So perhaps the effort needs to be rethought, as I said.

  21. marym

    Re: VSAP – It looks like in person touch-screen voting generates user-verifiable paper that then then gets resubmitted for scanning; and voting on a phone creates a “sample ballot” to be scanned into the system to initiate the same process as in-person, with the original choices filled in.

    How to vote in L.A. County in 2020 (expanded)

    How to vote on the NEW Ballot Marking Device [Extended]

    The new machines in IL this year had a touch screen, a printer, then hand-carry the print-out to a scanner. This VSAP looks like an all-in-one set-up, though I can’t tell if the paper is stored, or scanned on the spot.

    (Note: Not arguing. I’ve commented before that I’m skeptical about the practicality of strictly hand-paper counting as opposed to scanning hand-auditable paper. I’m working on learning more, and in the meantime trying to get a realistic sense of the voter verification and audit/recount potential of the new systems. I do understand it’s the encoding, not the text, that the machine counts)

    1. HotFlash

      What sort of printer? The paper receipts produced by many thermal printers, for instance, have a bad habit of fading away. So, not auditable?

      1. marym

        Interesting – I don’t know. I just tried a few searches – hit or miss. I found a Smartmatic document that referenced thermal paper, so I guess that means a thermal printer. I think what I found for Dominion said the configuration that prints a ballot (not a receipt) uses a laser printer. I’ll see if I can figure out something better than random keyword searches! How long would a thermal print-out remain scannable? Does it start to degrade right away?

        HR 1 – one of the many magical House bills that mean old McConnell won’t take up in the Senate has this fwiw: Sec. 1504 ““(ii) DEFINITION.—For purposes of this Act, paper is ‘durable’ if it is capable of withstanding multiple counts and recounts by hand without compromising the fundamental integrity of the ballots, and capable of retaining the information marked or printed on them for the full duration of a retention and preservation period of 22 months.”


        1. HotFlash

          Have no official info on this, I will see if I can find some (it’s important!). It may depend on the paper, the printer, the level of toner (do they even use such a thing?), and probably temperature — they are thermal printers, after all. I have had grocery receipts be illegible after a 20-min bike-ride home in my hip pocket. In the summer, but still. Trying to do my taxes in Dec finds many receipts from hardware store, etc. illegible to me. I am pretty sure there are ways to get the info back, but it probably needs more tachnology tha I have at home, so I just have to ballpark my drill bits, steel wool, linseed oil, etc. expenses and hope Canada Revenue will understand/believe me if I am ever audited.

    2. rowlf

      I voted today in Georgia for what appears to be a black guy, a white guy and a white woman. The BMD printed out my selections with a scan code too.

  22. D. Fuller

    Democrats en Deshabille, regarding Manu Raju’s tweet,

    Pelosi wouldn’t answer my question about why the $900 billion deal is more acceptable to her than the $1.8 trillion offer Mnuchin made to her this fall.

    Pelosi answered that already with, we have a new President (Biden) and a vaccine. Counting chickens before they hatch. Democrats have a deep history of prematurely declaring victory. Such as when they reveled in declaring themselves the future permanent majority party when Obama won in 2007, based on demographics shifts in voters. Only to be destroyed in 2010.

    The Democratic Party is a Presidential party. Meaning, they eye of power through The Presidency. Only to end up neglecting State races which form the basis of Congressional power through redistricting. A process Democrats have lost, yet again for a second decade. As for Congressional seats, senior Democratic leadership is content to sacrifice junior members in order for senior Democratic leadership to remain in power. Congressional control seesaws between the two parties as a result.

    Now that a Democrat is President, the Democratic Party agenda of austerity for the masses is back on. A notorious deficit hawk and foe of Social Security – most notably empowered by the Obama Administration – Bruce Reed has been tapped as Biden’s Chief of Staff. Coupled with Neera Tanden at OMB.

    With Republicans now returning to their faux-deficit hawk ways after their drunken, profligate spending spree of the last few years. Let that sink in, both Democrats AND Republicans are signaling austerity.

    The Dark Winter of Biden and Democrats will soon replace the Winter of Trump.

    If Trump would have won, Democratic leadership would have continued pushing a far larger relief bill. Knowing full well that Republicans would block. Centrist Dems always go full faux-Progressive when not in power; return to their pro-austerity business roots when in power. Obama exemplified this practice.

    Democratic Leadership may propose a larger bill in March. As a vote buying exercise, depending on how they view their 2022 Congressional prospects. As usual, the economy will be the major factor. Which explains several Republican Party moves to “sabotage” Biden and Democrats. How well the blame game is played by either party in blaming the other – Republicans have a distinct advantage here in messaging – will certainly be a factor. Perhaps another important factor will be the quality of Republican candidates for 2022 – or lack thereof – in determining electability. Also, which party can seize Populist messaging.

    Part of Republican strategy now is to hamper economic recovery, blame Democrats, to win in 2022. With an eye on 2024. Much like Pelosi asked for enormous sums in Covid relief, knowing Mitch would block. The better to try and blame Republicans – rightfully so – for blocking relief measures , as a vote-getting tactic.

    The problem for Democratic Party is that Pelosi now touts a far smaller bill that is even less than what Mnuchin offered. Pelosi & Schumer’s true intent on display for all to witness. Coupled with Biden’s pro-austerity cabinet picks.

    Fighting for Rights is a noble cause. However, when your populace is starving, economically and literally? When food becomes the ever-important concern? Few give a damn about Rights. Food is essential for Life, to survive. Rights, such as voting and LGBTQ, become secondary. Starve a populace sufficiently? They will elect who they deem necessary to secure their basic existence.

    One mechanism used by authoritarian types to secure power. Austerity. Promoted by Democrats after a few years of anti-Trump faux Progressive.

    1. km

      “If Trump would have won, Democratic leadership would have continued pushing a far larger relief bill. Knowing full well that Republicans would block. Centrist Dems always go full faux-Progressive when not in power; return to their pro-austerity business roots when in power. Obama exemplified this practice.”

      Team R do something similar. When in power, it’s “deficits don’t matter”. When out of power, fire up the catfood factory, it’s Austerity Time!

    2. Glen

      I think your analysis is very accurate. This is why I support all activities such as Force The Vote. I think one of the lessons that Democratic voters should learn from Republican voters is that the Republican leaders fear their voters. Democratic leaders need to know that conditions in the country are horrible and MUST be improved, and they need to hear that everyday from their voters (actually everybody now.)

      Any party that does not support average Americans is going to get voted out until one of the parties does. Then THAT PARTY will run the country for the next fifty years. I really don’t care which party anymore, they are both corrupt.


    Re “Immigrant Neighborhoods Shifted Red as the Country Chose Blue” [New York Times]. I suspect that immigrant communities are, like rural areas, significantly more religious than the Democratic Party supporter. Unfortunately, very, very few people seem willing to consider and study this issue. Also, note that Trump vote share among blacks also grew. I would be very interested in knowing what the correlation of voters in this shift is with their religious views. I have long found it amazing that Democratic Party elites AND activists give no thought to how the issues of abortion and lgbtq probably serve as divisive wedges with minority voters who are also religious.

  24. chuck roast

    OK, I’ll pin the “kick me” sign on.
    Lambert…“If we’re looking for a leadership figure in the intersection of the set of all militants.” There are those of us who are not looking for yet another “leadership figure.” IMO what we need is a popular movement; a united front to promote better health care, more housing, co-operative workfare, anti-corporate resistance and the like. Bernie adequately demonstrated the fate of “left” leaders. What we need is a left bloc, not a another left leader. Maybe it starts with these 10 Reps in Congress who demand a meaningful up/down vote. It helps to identify the enemy before you take aim. Enough already with the Queen’s gelato. I totally support Dore. His quest appears to be quixotic because he is Sancho Panza…you know, the dumpy little guy who rides the mule and carries the bags. Well, he has my support.

    Oh, and just to piss everybody off even further, if Medicare (Advantage aside) is so infested with neoliberals why aren’t the usual swine totally on board with M4A? I see people every day for whom M4A would be what we like to call around here a concrete material benefit. I know that it needs a substantial upgrade. Why am I paying over $200/month for gap coverage? Well because I live in third world country. People are getting a crummy one-time $600/month payment…M4A would represent a significant improvement in the lives of millions of Americans.

    Please don your sneakers prior to giving the boot.

    1. Another Thought

      With no insurance companies, everything covered, no deductibles or copays, and every provider participating if they want to practice medicine (hence no networks), I don’t see much room for neoliberals in M4A. I also thought some of the bills required providers to be not for profit.
      I’m sure neoliberals will find a way in, however. Pharma and equipment companies will still be for profit and I guess many physician practices will still be owned by private equity firms. I’m not sure how for profit hospitals fit in.

      1. jsn

        Actually existing Medicare does in fact suffer a neoliberal infestation.

        Should a movement form to force universal health care, free at the point of service, rest assured this infestation will be a well fortified final line of rentier defense.

  25. Cuibono

    sure seems to me that the conversation around th vaccines on this blog could easily be labelled by some as anti-vax even though we know that is clearly NOT the case.
    that is what concerns me the most. in my community, posting selfies by MDs getting the shot has become the norm. Am i the only one to find that scary?

    1. petal

      No. It’s happening in my circle, too. MD friends are posting selfies of themselves getting the jab, nurse friends as well-as if it’s some big coordinated PR push. Every single one. None of them are questioning. Having been around medical students, residents, fellows, etc, for 20 years, they aren’t taught to question. It’s just memorise and barf it up for the test, so I’m not surprised this is how it’s going.

    2. Daryl

      Like mask wearing and not mask wearing, a thing we should all be rationally evaluating has become a way to show your tribe belonging.

      And maybe I’m not being charitable enough to the author, but “the misleading claims Americans will soon hear about the newly released COVID-19 vaccines…” sure felt pre-emptive to me, as though all negative claims made about these vaccines must be misleading…

      1. Cuibono

        i noticed that too. one more thing: cases in the US have peaked or nearly so. The vaccine is perfectly timed.

        1. Yves Smith

          No, Christmas and New Years are coming. Expect a spike from the current elevated level.

          CA and NYC are pretty locked down, but a lot of places are not with the program and likely won’t be until their hospitals have people piled up in gurneys in ERs.

          1. furies

            Where I am in Cali–we are NOT locked down. (Our ‘constitutional’ sheriffs have vowed not to enforce restrictions/masking/curfews etc.) People out and about…eating ‘out’ in tents instead of inside, people going to house parties…lots of traffic etc. etc.

            Looks like normal Xmas time to me…

  26. The Rev Kev

    “Living With Karens A white woman calls the police on her Black neighbors. Six months later, they still share a property line.”

    Things were going well with Fareed and his neighbours in dealing with this woman and he had basically won. And then he posted it on Facebook. Big mistake. A local spate then got blown up and then the whole circus came to town. You had cops, BLM, the media, the Governor and Fareed’s patio became a tourist spot. Gunna cop some flak for this but maybe he should have let events play out after that confrontation as the neighbours were clearly on his side. I don’t think that his neighbours appreciated all that extra attention either. A Karen is notorious for demanding to see a manager but is appealing to public opinion on social media that much different?

  27. witters

    I also agree with Levitz that the Medicare for All movement is in need of a little self-reflection. Medicare, due to a neoliberal infestation, is not the panacea it is made out to be, as Yves shows here. Rather than consistently pointing to polling, advocates would do better to ask themselves why they haven’t closed the sale

    Caitlan Johnstone’s earlier essay (The Revolutionary Struggle is a Fight between Movement and Inertia) is,surely, to the point here. .

    The entire revolutionary struggle, ultimately, is a battle between movement and inertia. Wherever you’ve got a political status quo that needs changing you’ll find revolutionary-minded forces pushing toward change and guardians of the status quo making clever-sounding arguments for why the smart strategy is to remain motionless. When the status quo is destructive and unsustainable, as this one unquestionably is, the ones pushing for movement are always on the correct side of the debate.

  28. Culp Creek Curmudgeon

    Hello everyone. What do you think about this?

    Matt Bruenig@MattBruenig
    Replying to @ella_em_

    it doesn’t actually have any useful contributions, it’s designed precisely to trick dimwitted people into believing you can fund social democratic spending without social democratic taxes, even though the top tier MMTers will admit this isn’t true if you corner them on it


    Here’s the original tweet:

    Ella Em@ella_em_

    We are a socialist organization, not the personal lobby for MMT theorists.

    MMT has useful contributions to socialist economics but we have other political goals that aren’t served by an exclusive fo us on MMT


    1. fwe'theewell

      Bruenig’s tweet reminds me of Levitz’s description of Dore/ M4A Progressives as naive. Kind of embarrassing, taken at face value, and more revealing of the speaker than the subject. Bruenig doesn’t seem to understand MMT /federal spending at all. In my understanding, MMT doesn’t preclude social democratic taxes; it merely locates/ identifies the “beginning” of the spending “circuit” at a place other than taxes.

      I’m fine with Ella’s tweet. MMT is a description of federal spending as it is now, and I doubt perpetuating the status quo is the goal of Any True Socialist. Social well-being spending is needed now. Today. Someday, under different conditions, hopefully the state will wither away. As for Dem-Socs, I’m skeptical.

    2. Daryl

      > it’s designed precisely to trick dimwitted people into believing you can fund social democratic spending without social democratic taxes, even though the top tier MMTers will admit this isn’t true if you corner them on it

      I guess my question would be — who benefits here? People who believe in social democratic spending have approximately zero power and people in power actively don’t want it, so it doesn’t really make sense to me to have a grand conspiracy to convince people that it’s possible. Who’s out there trying to intentionally mislead people about the viability of MMT, and why would they do that?

      (I write this as someone who interacts with economics only from a distance and primarily through NC, so I genuinely don’t know).

      1. fwe'theewell

        I’ve seen Marxist posts elsewhere that correctly characterize social democratic spending as merely a pressure-release valve, forestalling revolution. The New Deal certainly did that, having been a compromise between capand abortion. labor.

        I’m guessing from Bruenig’s word choices that he thinks MMT detracts from the importance of taxes and allows tax-haters some leverage.

        If Bruenig is yet another mainstream Democrat who thinks the perfect is the enemy of the good, then maybe he just wants to make the Democrats look better for not using MMT to do some immense, authentic good for the masses rather than their already-wealthy patrons and cronies.

  29. chris

    Damn. If he had spoken like this more often he’d still be President after January 20.

    If he really means what he said this upends a lot of what’s going on in Congress and the Senate right now.

    1. JBird4049

      The socialists are coming for your cheeseburgers?!?


      “You Keep Using That Word, I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means”

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